Life is full of bad news and stress at the moment and most of that bad news and stress get into your brain through that rectangular oracle you keep in your pocket. You don’t have to be bossed around by that phone, though. Instead of doom scrolling and getting angry and depressed, use a different app. Instead of opening Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, open an app that calms, instructs, informs, and makes your day — and your life and health — go more smoothly and with intention. It’s a small change that can make a world of difference.
Here are nine apps that will help change your outlook, improve your habits, and inch you towards health and happiness.
1. Food Monster
Free with in-app purchases or $3.99 month, $19.99 6-month, $39.99 yearly for premium
Going vegan is a healthy choice but, one meal in, and people are usually overwhelmed by the massive changes to their diet and stuck for what to eat next. Food Monster is here to help you get excited about the food you just committed to and to save you from the endless internet search for recipes that you can actually eat. There are 15,000 recipes, complete with tantalizing photos, to help you stay on track and not feel deprived or overwhelmed.
Journaling is a great way to work through stress, organize your thoughts, and store memories. And Journey makes journaling better than doing it on that cute paper journal. You can include photos; it logs your locations, weather and mood; and it will display your entries as a list, on a calendar, or on a map. Premium features include writing coaches and prompts. Also, you always have your phone with you so you can journal anytime, anywhere. But Journey works across all platforms and stores your musings on the internet, so your journal will be there, whatever device you use.
Stop the endless back and forth when trying to schedule a meeting, book a client, or just get together with friends by using Calendly. Connect it to your online calendar, give people a link that shows them your availability, and let them drop a time right on your calendar. It’s super easy for both of you; it emails you when someone books a time; you can offer instructions on how to reach you right in the app; and the basic service is free. All you have to do – once you give out your Calendly link – is look at your calendar and be there for the meeting.
$6.99 a month or $50 a year after a free trial
A lot of science went into the creating the playlists in Brain.fm so that when you put on music, it helps you focus. When I’m feeling unproductive, I turn on 90 minutes of focus and my brain snaps right to it. I could not get through a work day without it. If you use the Pomodoro technique to stay productive at work or when being creative, it works brilliantly with that. Set a playlist to play for 30, 60, or 90 minutes — or whatever time you prefer — and work till your tunes stop. Then take a break. You can choose music designed to help you focus, relax, sleep, or meditate. Within every activity, you can choose how deeply you want to focus and what mood you want.
If you enjoy mobile games and also struggle build or break healthy habits, download this app that turns habit building into a game. Your love of gaming might just be the thing to help you break through your procrastination and bad habits. Start by listing the habit you want to build — flossing, planks, drinking water — or break — smoking, snacking, staying up late. When you tick off your task as done at the end of the day, you get rewards that you can use to trick out your in-game avatar. As you build a habit through consistency, your tasks change color, moving toward blue. If you start to drop off, the task’s color shifts toward red. You can track a to-do list in this app, too.
$12.99 a month or $70 a year with a free trial
Like having a mindfulness coach in your pocket, this app will come up with a daily list of short meditations, relaxing breaks, music to keep you focused, guided cardio, and short workouts to help you feel better, get healthier in mind and body, and sleep well. Or you can browse the vast collection of guided activities — including some very relaxing wind-down story-and-music combos to help you drift off. This is the app you want to open when you pull out your phone and feel the pull of social media — and all it’s divisiveness and bad news — to keep your mind and body healthy instead of angry.
7. Credit Karma
When you know what your credit rating is and are offered actionable, daily, steps to help you get to a higher credit rating, it’s a form of empowerment that changes everything from how much money you have in the bank to how much you can borrow. Credit Karma takes all the mystery out of managing your own credit score and turns it into a fun game that’s really worth playing. It tells you what your credit rating is now, why, and what you need to do to improve it. It’s also loaded with educational content and breaks down specific credit cards, loans, car loans, and mortgages like the money coach you wish you had. It will also do your taxes, if you like.
Ready to go back to the office in style? Headed to a wedding? Want to absolutely kill the tie tying this time instead of struggling to remember how to do the same boring knot every time? This app will unlock an entire world of tie knots (and pocket squares) and walk you through tying each one. You can reverse the tutorial so you don’t have to mirror the process in your mind, there is a fascinating story and history for each knot, and you will blow people’s minds with your sexy self.
9. Picture This
Not sure what that plant in your garden is? Instead of asking people who look like they might know, download this app, take a photo, and get an answer. It’s really good at it and it will tell you everything you need to know about that plant, including if it’s toxic to your pet. It will also help you diagnose a sick plant. Just take a photo of the sick part and the entire plant, and the app will come up with a diagnosis, explain why it’s happening, and help you get that plant well. Premium services include being able to ask a plant expert your specific questions.